By Mark Fellows
A new Internet-based network linking Thomas M. Cooley Law School in
Lansing to campuses in Grand Rapids and Oakland County will allow
high-speed connections not just for instruction and administration,
but to cut phone bills as well.
Cooley last month hooked up with Grand Rapids-based fiber-optic
service provider U.S. Signal to upgrade its voice and data system into
a virtual private network with speeds up to 45 MB per second. That's a
15-fold speed boost using an Internet protocol, or IP, system.
Yet how -- and whether -- to regulate VoIP is in dispute. Federal
Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell advocates a
hands-off approach and vows to head off state efforts to regulate
it. Although the Michigan Public Service Commission is one of many
around the country looking into the technology, by November it had not
followed up a March call for testimony with any report or action.
"We are in limbo land and I fully expect that we're going to stay
there for quite a while," telecommunications specialist Rick Coy of
the Lansing office of the Clark Hill law firm said. "Not only are the
feds saying to states 'Don't do anything,' but there are some serious
questions whether states have the authority to do much."
Convergence of data, video and voice information technologies into
digital packets, Coy said, undermines such efforts. Although
telecommunications giants are consolidating such technologies to
remain major competitors, he said, "regulation itself is a declining
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